Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Peter Chernin, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
Cinematography: Michael Seresin
by Tory Maddox
It’s a film I wish I checked out in theaters, even while I kept hearing how good it was. Counter to most pop films, this is some smart sci-fi, examining the paradoxes of war and the many roots of racism. The story takes place years after the fall of the modern world, on the outskirts of San Francisco. The hackneyed named Caesar (Andy Serkis) from Rise of the Planet of the Apes has now created a peaceful society. However, when a group of humans heads to the woods in order to repair a dam and restore their power, they’re stopped and told to to turn around. Caesar’s friend and ally Ash (Doc Shaw) doesn’t enjoy or trust the humans, vehemently opposed to any integration between humans and apes.
Though just as the Ape colony has their Ash, the humans have Carver (Kirk Acevedo) who views the apes as threatening animals. And when the team is attempting to repair the dam and a newborn ape starts exploring their camp site, coming across a shotgun that Carver brought in, the peace is pushed to its limits. It’s a scene like this that makes the movie so smart. Was the shotgun brought along out of Carver’s negligence and did he mean any harm, or was it simply an to protect the baby? I suppose, considering how conspicuous the weapon was, it was probably the former, but throughout the movie we get these gray little matters that create an incredibly rich story.
Take for instance, the tones of racism - or speciesism - throughout the film. When Ash is cornered by the two men who are ‘testing’ weapons (which I have to say is the one nonsensical moment in the film - aside from the talking apes - as in, why would they have to expend so many bullets unless they know they’re under attack. They could have easily been guards or something less illogical). In which case, Ash decides to start acting out the stereotypes of monkey play in order to distract them, playing against their expectations in order to deceive and kill them.
And so throughout the film, we are witness to the fear that can often causes conflict. Some of the apes fear the humans and want to launch an offensive, and vice versa for the humans. Thus when Caesar is assassinated - which I’m so grateful wasn’t a complete rip off of Shakespeare - and yet similar to the play, in a moment of supreme fear, Ash is able to exploit the situation for his own personal gain and attack the humans.
Of course, one issue I did have was when the apes release the human prisoners there seemed to be immediate reconciliation, with the humans immediately trusting their rescuers. Perhaps this will evolve in the next movie (as the army arrives), but I felt that, realistically, after being imprisoned and having many of their friends slaughtered, at least some of these people would want to go on the offensive and attack.
While the apes looked great, especially the Orangutan, the opening battle scene just didn’t work well. There’s something with fast motion that causes the images to blur in a way that looks very much inserted into the frame and then occasional moments where some of the apes looked incredible and others where it looked very much computer generated.
For a movie that explores the effects of racism and paradoxes of war, you can’t go wrong with this incredible sci-fi film. And for once the Golden Gate bridge didn’t explode!
BELOW: That's one good looking Orangutan
Thoughts on films, old and new
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